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City Hall design committee dissects plan for Fulton Market towers, urges changes

Chicago’s review panel urged the developer to consider revising plans for an office building at 315 N. May St. and a 377-unit residential building at 1112 W. Carroll Ave.

The proposed design of an office building at 315 N. May St (left) and a residential building at 1112 W. Carroll Ave.
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Chicago’s first Committee on Design, living up to its billing as an independent critic of proposed real-estate developments, suggested changes Wednesday to a two-tower project planned for Fulton Market.

Committee members at their first meeting proposed altering a site plan from development firm Trammell Crow that calls for a 650,000-square-foot office building at 315 N. May St. and a neighboring 377-unit residential building at 1112 W. Carroll Ave. It made its recommendations as part of the standard review of the city’s Planning Department.

The committee of architects, artists, academics and real estate professionals suggested that the development could better relate to the Fulton Market landmark district immediately south of it. Architect Jeanne Gang, a member of the committee, urged the developers to consider using parking decks to buffer the residential building from commuter train tracks just north.

Trammell Crow, working with ESG Architecture & Design, proposed a 30,000-square-foot public park to address a lack of open space in the quickly changing neighborhood west of the Loop. The park would include a bluff that would rise toward a wall next to the train tracks.

Trammell Crow Principal John Carlson thanked Gang for the idea and promised to consider it. “We’re stewards of it too,” he said the development. Carlson said his firm has rejected a city suggestion that it flip the placement of the buildings, putting the offices closer to the tracks, as being unacceptable to potential tenants.

The proposed buildings have angled sections that emphasize eastward views toward downtown. Carlson said the design maximizes sunlight and airflow between the buildings.

“These comments will be incorporated into [the Department of Planning and Development’s] review considerations as we continue our dialogue with the applicant,” city planner Joshua Son told the panel. Its recommendations are not binding but give developers and architects feedback from top professionals that could help their projects win zoning approval.

The committee also considered plans from Heartland Housing Alliance and Oak Park Regional Housing Center to renovate the landmark Laramie State Bank building, 5200 W. Chicago Ave., and build a six-story, 76-unit apartment building next to it, with a plaza along the street. The old building would get a bank branch, a blues museum, business incubator and café operated by a community board that’s supposed to reinvest profits in the Austin area.

Committee members praised the overall design by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, including plans to use the open space to celebrate the arts. They offered a few ideas for moving certain functions in the buildings.

Planning Commissioner Maurice Cox appointed the panel last month. Its 24 unpaid members are serving two-year terms and, on a rotating basis, will review many planned developments, a special zoning category applied to larger, complex proposals. They also will review plans for super-tall high-rises, developments that involve city money such as tax-increment financing or plans that are within or near landmark districts.

A rendering of plans for the former Laramie State Bank at 5200 W. Chicago Ave. (right) and a residential building planned next to it.
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